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Social Good

Carmen Carrera

Transgender Supermodel & Activist

“I definitely feel misunderstood,” explains 31-year-old model Carmen Carrera atop New York’s Park South Hotel. “People who know me from RuPaul’s Drag Race say, ‘Wait. I thought she was a man. And now she has boobs?’ It can be difficult to grasp.”

When Carrera first gained fame on season three of the reality TV series, she identified as a gay male. Now, five years later, she’s married. She’s a step-mother to two young girls. And, most significantly, her body also matches her soul.

“I chose to make my transition publicly,” she remembers. “I documented everything on social media, spoke about it whenever I could… Because I remember how hard it was growing up without any visible resources, so, I try to let people in — to inspire them to consider what’s possible.”

Five years later, Carrera has turned her focus to Latin America, a part of the world she describes as “stuck in out-of-date ways of seeing other people.” The Puerto Rican-Peruvian has taken her show on the road, raising awareness for trans issues and showing those who suffer how much joy there is in being yourself.

A transgender activist for Latin America

“Growing up in New Jersey, I knew I was different. I remember praying in the fourth grade saying, ‘God, please make me a girl tomorrow.’ So, I worked hard to suppress myself. There was always so much going on in my head that I wasn’t able to show…  It was pretty much impossible to develop deep relationships. In a way, I spent so much time hiding that I never got to grow up. That’s why I’m still such a kid at heart — which is great, because I get to have fun, but there’s still so much work I need to do on myself.”

When did you first realize you were transgender?

“I didn’t know who I was. I was born male but was attracted to men. So, what did that make me? And since there weren’t really any public figures who represented the trans community, I figured, ‘Why not be gay?’ I [asked], ‘Man, what do gay people do? What do gay people sound like?’ Then I spent my early 20’s playing a gay male in New York City. But I still didn’t feel like me… felt like it was a part. Eventually, though, I needed to show the people I love my genuine self.”

America first met you as a drag queen. Why identify as a gay male?

Carmen Carrera - Transgender Supermodel and Activist
Eventually, though, I needed to show the people I love my genuine self.”

“When I decided to transition, I knew I wanted to make my experience public… I think that often, those of us who work in entertainment or live in a place like New York are in such a bubble that we forget how hard it is for trans people in middle America, or in other countries where different forms of beauty aren’t as accepted. I wanted to use my transition as an opportunity to show people that I acknowledge their struggle. But I also wanted to show them what can be possible… that you can be your true self and experience genuine joy.”

You transitioned very publicly. How come?

“I’m such a fan of social media because of the way it connects us. And, sure… As much as I could see all the positivity around my transition, I could also see all the ignorance. But the thing about this generation is: We see everything. And that’s when the real change is going to come.”

And how was that received?

“Here I am, living this great life… doing groundbreaking work. So, it’s easy for me to think: Acceptance is here; marriage equality is here. But there are huge swathes of the world where people are afraid to leave their homes… afraid of being beaten of killed. That, unfortunately, includes much of Latin America. Take Brazil: A trans person is murdered there every four days and beaten every 10 minutes. I like to go to those places and do publicity tours that show people what trans really means — that teach my community to stand up and take responsibility. For many people, that just means showing them what’s possible.”

Tell us about your current work in Latin America.

“Dating. [Laughs] When I was single, there were tons of men who were interested in me. Men who were attracted to me. But when they found out I was trans, which I never hide, they went through some psychological rollercoaster. There was one guy who said over and over, ‘But I’m not gay.’ And I remember thinking, ‘But what does it have to do with gay? I’m a woman. And I know gay guys sure as hell aren’t attracted to me, so, I don’t understand.’ The thing is, though, it just takes time. Acceptance isn’t going to happen overnight… I’m just trying to do my part to inspire it.”

What was the hardest part of transitioning for you?


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